According to Jesus, every person is his brother or his sister, and how they are treated matters to him. “Whatever you did for the least of these my brothers and sisters you did for me.” (Mt 25:40)

The implications of this are staggering. Consider the parent, the one who is healthy enough to know that to love is to sacrifice, to worry, to serve, to pray. Yes, boundaries and training and even discipline, carefully and appropriately applied are important and necessary aspects to parental nurture. But behind and beneath the healthy parental role of guiding and training is a deeper, more profound calling of connection and commitment. Mothers tend to recognize this more than many men; everyone knows you don’t mess with “Mama Bear.” But fathers possess this heart as well, or at least we have the capacity.

When it comes to siblings, most of us operate somewhere between the continuum of Cain and Able and Wolverine and his charges. So the sibling metaphor may not work as a motivator for some of us, but at least, if we’re honest, we get Jesus’ point: people matter, because each person is a part of him, and therefore of us. We’re connected as family.

The next time you disparage, label, dismiss or take someone on – whether on the freeway, in a mall, watching cable, or at work or in school – perhaps you could take moment to consider that the person you’re angry with, or berating, making fun of, or criticizing, is actually a member of your family. He is your brother. She is your sister. Maybe that will change things, even a little. Maybe you’ll be more available to learn from and about them. Maybe you’ll tone down the rhetoric and pay a little more attention to their needs and hurts and dreams.

To reframe Jesus’s image to parenting, few among us don’t want the very best for our kids. And for almost all of us we would go to the wall for them, even when they don’t seem to deserve it. It is not behavior and compliance we love, it is them. Their eyes, their smile, their passions – these are what keeps us going. The child we held, the child we nurtured and raised, the child we love. Now, what if we saw all children, young or old, as being our children? Would it change us? Perhaps that’s what Jesus was going for… that we would see one another through his eyes.

Daughter 17 (unknown)  Framed on the desk of a father of a wandering daughter

I have a daughter 17

When she lies to me…I love her.

When she disappoints me…I love her.

When she doesn’t live up to my expectations…I love her.

When she reflects poorly on my name…I love her.

 

“Now I can understand how when she pleases you…and obeys you…and fulfills you…” you say.

 

But that’s not what I’m talking about.

It’s when she does none of these things…I love her.

AND for a very simple reason:

 

I am her father…and she’s my child

 

(reprinted from Disconnected, Chap and Dee Clark, NavPress, 2007, p44)